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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mastering photoshop shapes in 3 easy steps

Photoshop shapes can add a whole new dimension to your digital designs. They're not difficult to use, and it's well worth the effort to master them. Photoshop gives its users access to these shapes directly from the Tools palette: Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, Line and Custom.

Once you've chosen a shape, you don't need to go back to the Tools palette to change it to another shape; just select a new one from your Tool Options bar.

Inside the Tool Options bar, you will also find three options for your shapes, as described below:

1- The "Fill Pixels" option fills your shape with the foreground color (the top color square in your Tools bar).

2- The "Paths" option lets you create a shaped path to work with.

3- The "Shape Layers" option makes a new vector shape layer which, when selected, allows you to create shapes using "Styles" from the Style palette.

Your "Custom Shape Picker" offers a collection of shapes you can load. To find it, click on the "Custom" shape.

You can get pretty fancy with this option by combining shapes with your Style palette. Try adding a custom filled shape to an image, then clicking on that layer to bring up the Style palette. You can then blend to your heart's content, using the precise layer blending modes inside the Style box, and changing the opacity of the fill.

To create your own shapes, first open a new blank file. Click on the "Pen" tool icon inside your Tool bar, then click the "Paths" option. To draw a line for your shape, simply click, then click again at a different point. To make a curvy line, click, then drag to the second point.

You can edit your new shape inside your "Direct Selection" tool, by first clicking on the form to see all the stopping points, or "nodes." Drag them around to change and perfect your custom shape.

If you need to move the nodes individually, choose the "Convert Point" tool from your Tools palette, then drag on a handle. This separates the connection.

To save your new shape so you can use it again, choose the "Direct Selection" tool, then Edit > Define Custom Shape. A thumbnail will appear. You can type in the name of your custom shape and then save by clicking OK.

You can use any of your shapes, custom or preset, to make cutouts of your photos. Just choose the shape, then the "Paths" option and draw out the path. Click the "Load Path as Selection icon" at the bottom of the Paths palette; this transforms the path into a selection. Click on Select > Inverse to invert the selection, then on Delete. This cuts the selection out of the image just like a cookie cutter.

Photoshops shapes are great for making outstanding collages and web designs. You'll find many other entertaining and practical uses for them too, but a word of warning here: once you get started on Photoshop shapes, you'll be hooked for life.

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